Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

MeatballsThe evenings are always busy in our household – people are always coming in late from work, school or training, or rushing out in the evening. One of the ways that I save time is by doubling up on recipes and freezing portions for later use.

My meatballs are loosely based on a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s ‘Feast’. But I’ve been cooking them for so long now that the recipe has changed a lot over the years. This can be a good recipe to prepare ahead, as you can make the sauce and meatballs earlier in the day and then just cook the meatballs while the pasta is cooking.

Alternatively, you can freeze the meatballs in the sauce for another day. Make sure that the meatballs are completely immersed in the sauce to prevent freezer burn, and defrost thoroughly in the fridge before you reheat them. I usually serve them with fusilli because that’s what we’ve always eaten it with, but the boys also love them with spaghetti or linguine. I also really like them with brown rice as well.

But whatever I serve them with, I love to shower mine with plenty of parmesan before eating!!

Meatballs in Tomato SauceA plate of meatballs in tomato sauce with parmesan cheese and fusilli pasta
Serves 4

1 medium onion
1 medium carrot
2 cloves of garlic
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
450g lean beef mince
20g porridge oats
20g finely grated parmesan
1 large egg
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar

To serve: pasta or rice, grated parmesan

Peel and roughly chop the onion and carrot, peel the cloves of garlic and put all of them into a food process. Pulse until everything is finely chopped together.

Put the oil in a large saucepan over a low heat, and add three-quarters of the vegetable mix together with a pinch of salt. Put a lid on the saucepan and let the vegetables gently soften, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is browning. This will take around 10 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, add the mince to the food processor along with the remaining vegetable mix, the porridge oats, parmesan and egg. Pulse until everything is well mixed together and then turn out into a bowl.

Pinch off small amounts of the meatball mix and roll into balls about 2.5cm across. I never have a problem with the mix sticking to my hands but if you do, keeping your hand damp with water can help. Put the meatballs onto a plate as you make them, when they are all done you can cover with clingfilm and pop them in the fridge til you need them.

When the vegetables have softened, add the can of tomatoes and then a can full of water to the pan. Add the sugar, then bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until it is slightly reduced and thickened.

Remove from the heat and use a stick blender to blend to a smooth sauce. If you don’t have a stick blender, you could use a food processor or liquidiser but be very careful blending hot liquids. Let the sauce cool down a little before you transfer it to the blender, and cover the top of the liquidiser with a teatowel to avoid scalding yourself.

When you have a smooth sauce, bring it back to a gentle simmer then gently drop in the meatballs. You may find that some of the meatballs aren’t completely covered, but you can just flip them over into the sauce a little later on. They will take around 15 minutes to cook, avoid stirring the pan for at least the first 5 minutes as it may break up the meatballs.

When the meatballs are cooked through, serve with pasta, rice, couscous or whatever else your family prefers.


These meatballs are easy to make, and are great for freezing or preparing ahead if your evenings are busy.

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